While Barry Larkin is being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 22, the current Reds will be facing the Milwaukee Brewers in the final game of a three-game series before heading out to Houston. Still, most will make time to watch Larkin speak — and some will likely watch it more than once.
There are no players left on the team from Larkin’s playing days, though some, like second baseman Brandon Phillips, grew up watching him and idolized the longtime Reds shortstop. Others, like Miguel Cairo and Scott Rolen, played against him. All, though, have respect for the Cincinnati native.
CityBeat spoke to several Reds players — and even a Cardinal — about what they remember about Larkin.
Jay Bruce: “The little bit he’s been around has been great. You can talk to him about anything and he’s a guy who was a leader in the clubhouse and on the field, as far as his play was concerned. He’s easy to talk to, he’s personable and I have the utmost respect for him. He did a lot of things for this organization that really put them in the position that made them as storied as they are. To see him go in, knowing him pretty well, he’s probably the guy I know the best that’s gone into the Hall of Fame other than when [Ken] Griffey goes in. I’m definitely going to watch — it’s something that doesn’t happen all the time.”
Scott Rolen: “I remember, obviously, all the things everyone else remembers — his athleticism, his abilities and all that other stuff.
When I was a rookie and I came up, my first spring training we were playing the Reds and I hit a double, and I was on second base and he patted me on the arm and said, ‘Good luck, you’re looking good.’ I’m like, ‘It’s Barry Larkin.’ It was just really a nice manner, you always saw him as professional. Everyone can go on about his playing on the field, but I just always remember seeing him as good guy, a good person. He was a professional and obviously made my day just talking to me, however old I was and on another team. It’s Barry Larkin. That’s the biggest thing I remember. You always saw a pleasant demeanor on the field. You felt like everything was OK in the world when Barry Larkin was out there playing shortstop.”
Miguel Cairo: “He was so consistent for so many years and, to be able to do that, he was an excellent player. He played the hardest position in baseball and do it for so long with that consistency, it’s unbelievable. Every time you saw him in the field, it was like seeing a kid playing, he was always smiling and having fun and then to put up the numbers he put up, it’s amazing.”
Dusty Baker: “I just remember how smooth he was and how in control he was of the game and his body. In his mind, he could slow the game down, but he was at full speed but he didn’t look like he was at full speed. There aren’t many guys who can do that. He was so graceful, with his long strides you couldn’t tell how fast he really was. He rarely had to dive — he was always in the right place at the right time. He had body control. He was a great player. I don’t think the world knows him like they should — he wasn’t real flashy or flamboyant. He’s known around here and the Midwest, but not the way he will be once he’s in the Hall. If he played in New York ... certain places you get notoriety.”
First base coach Billy Hatcher, a former teammate and opponent: “I wish I could go [to the induction ceremony], but I can’t, I have the game. I will record it and I will watch it and I will watch it over again. He’s one of the best. When you start talking about Hall of Famers, you look on the baseball field. You’ll see Hall of Famers and you can put a signature on them. You look at Hank Aaron. You think Hank Aaron, home runs. Throw someone out. Willie Mays: home runs and defense. You look at Barry Larkin and there wasn’t a part of his game he wasn’t good at. He was very good at every aspect of the game, whether it was stealing bases, running bases, bunting, hitting, driving in runs, playing defense, smart — he had it all. This is one guy that was very talented, but he got everything out of his talent. He didn’t take anything for granted. He didn’t think baseball owed him anything, he went out there and took everything he wanted.”
Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman: “He’s a guy that you considered to be a pro’s pro. ... You see a lot of young guys now play with too much flair, in my opinion, it’s all about ‘Look at me, look at what I can do.’ Barry was the type of guy who would come, do his job, get his hits, play great defense. It wasn’t that he was the show — he came and was a great player and respected the game and played hard. He was a great example for a lot of young guys, myself included.”